More than 16,000 appear for the National Eligibility Test (NET) that is conducted by the University Grants Commission twice every year. It consists of three objective-type papers. Paper I tests you on your teaching aptitude, research skills and general awareness through objective-type questions. Whatever that means. Papers II and III have subject-related questions which in my case, means Economics. The current format was adopted in June 2012. India is a country that has relied on quantity over quality in every field and that is understandable too considering the size of the population that has to be dealt with on a daily basis.

By the way, this is not a post that is meant to give a formula to crack NET though it very well might do that. I want to highlight the futility of this test in selecting quality teachers at the University level.

Now, I have written three NETs in this format and there are some obvious trends like that which exists in every entrance examination for admission or appointment to a government institution.

Paper I
  • Testing your research skills: Rather than have an undergraduate or a postgraduate thesis to your name, you are more likely to score by knowing the answers to all these pointless questions.
  1. How to write references in Modern Language Association (MLA) format; 
  2. Define a workshop
  3. What is a hypothesis?
  4. Research ethics with questions like can you publish the same content in two different places at once. Bleh.
  • Testing your teaching aptitude: Let’s have a format for everything you do in class from how you should tell your students to pee during breaktime to how you should pacify them when they cry.
  1. My favourite question this time around was this one. Why should primary school teachers be women. Options being a) they can teach better than men, b) better knowledge of content c) available on lower salaries d) deal with children with love and affection.
  2. Not to mention the generic opinions like how should one treat a student who does not give the right answer in class.
  • General Awareness:
  1. Usually involves some very easy problems from tables and jumbled words
  2. Then a few questions on appointing a top government official in the legislative, executive or judiciary
  3. Computer Applications is a gem of a section. All areas are covered from the full forms of HTML and www to the inner workings of a hard disk. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to turn a computer on or how to type on Word or Excel.
  4. Questions on environment and climate change. It doesn’t matter if you are not up-to-date with the latest discussions between G20 nations or what our own country is doing in renewable energy. Just make sure you know what the Earth Summit or the Kyoto Protocol did.
  5. Locations of some major research institutes in the country.
Papers II & III
Papers II and III in Economics usually covers the basics which is important. One should know about market models, profits, wages, rent, consumption, investment, production, employment and trade. What is painful is the same format being followed. There’s no need for application at all.

  • Questions are based on chronology of ancient economists and their theories. According to UGC, there are no economists after the 80s or 90s. It’s always Adam Smith to Keynes to Marx (who’s not even an economist) to Hicks and Kaldor.
  • Components of indices
  • Different curves and lines like offer curves, indifference curves and production possibility curves
  • Consumption, production and investment functions and their movements
  • Age-old market theories on monopoly, oligopoly and monopolistic competition
  • Public finance questions do not go beyond shifting of taxes and Wagner’s law which is a staple
  • Fancy named theories/hypotheses like Big Push, Vicious Cycle, Knife-edge problem and Bastard Golden Age. Maybe they should have censored the bastard-part as it might offend someone.
  • Horrible questions from Finance Commission Reports, Economic Surveys and Budgets because your knowledge of rice production in the kharif season of 1983-84 is critical to your understanding of economics. Don’t forget to memorize the crude birth rates, fertility rates and population growth rates of all the states in the previous decade.
  • At the fag end, you’ll find a few problems on correlation, regression and sampling
I also wish they would remove the stupid requirement of needing a Master’s degree in a subject to apply to NET in the same field. 
As always, don’t mind the sarcasm. It’s the only language I know. I sincerely wish those who clear these exams and take up teaching don’t tame the minds of the bright ones in class. I am not sure how those who top these exams are qualified. Then again, it’s always about market signalling. Someone who has cleared NET is apparently better than someone who as not cleared it.